I thought I would offer something different for my commentary on today’s reading. I know it is a little bit early for some of us to be thinking about Christmas. However, here is an excerpt from my book, Open Before Christmas, that touches upon a passage in our reading for today….
An article appeared in the Associated Press one December day a number of years ago:
Israel might declare Bethlehem a closed military area on Christmas Eve, preventing worshippers from arriving there….
Bethlehem’s mayor has already canceled Christmas Eve celebrations in the town because of more than two months of violence between Israelis and Palestinians. The violence has driven away most tourists, hitting Bethlehem’s economy hard.
The daily Maariv said Prime Minister Ehud Barak was considering imposing the restrictions if Palestinians do not stop firing on the Jewish neighborhood of Gilo, not far from Bethlehem. Israel television broadcast a similar report.
“O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie.” Not so still these days, is it? But 2,700 years ago when Micah wrote his prophecy, about the birth of the Messiah,
Bethlehem was considerably more quiet, a seemingly insignificant place. Let us see what Micah has to say about the coming of the Messiah….
But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times. (Micah 5:2)
Who sent the Son of God into the world? An answer is suggested in the words of Micah 5:2. “Out of you,” says the Lord speaking through the prophet Micah, “Out of you will come for me.” God the Father sent his Son into the world.
God the Father sent his Son into the world that he might be the Savior of all. Too often, we ascribe the honor for our salvation to the Son of God alone. We picture God the Father as angry at us for our sin and God the Son as pacifying that anger. However, such is not the case. God the Father loves us, and chose to become incarnate in his Son. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
Imagine the depth of love that the Father must have had for us that he gave himself for us in Jesus of Nazareth. I remember when my father laid his hand on my shoulder and prayed for me before I got in the car and left California to travel all the way across the country and go to seminary in Princeton, New Jersey. I remember another day, when once again I was moving from California, this time with a family of my own, to pastor a church in South Carolina. The day before I left, my father gave me a Scripture to guide me. I still have that Scripture, which he printed out for me on his computer, framed and hanging in my house to this day.
Partings between fathers and sons who love each other are not easy. I have a hard time letting my kids leave for school, or leave to go next door to play with their friends, or leave to go to a birthday party. It was even more difficult when I had to say goodbye to my eldest son and send him off to college.
The love that God the Father has for his Son is infinitely greater than the love that any of us as human fathers have for our human sons or daughters. Yet, he loved us so much that he was willing to give his Son for us. He didn’t merely give his Son to travel across the country to go to college. No, he gave his Son to go from heaven to earth, from infinity to the finite, from spirit to occupying a body, from timeless eternity to the constraints of 24-hour days, from deity to humanity, from total life to death on a cross. When the Son of God left heaven, it had to be such an emotional parting that even the angels wept. They longed to be with the Son of God so much that they followed him down to earth just to watch and announce his birth.
I like the way Joseph Bayly put it in his Psalm for Christmas Eve...
Praise God for Christmas.
Praise Him for the Incarnation
for Word made flesh.
I will not sing
of shepherds watching flocks
on frosty night or angel choristers.
I will not sing of stable bare in Bethlehem or lowing oxen
trailing distant star
with gold and frankincense and myrrh.
Tonight I will sing
praise to the Father
who stood on heaven’s threshold
and said farewell to His Son
as He stepped across the stars
And I will sing praise to the infinite eternal Son
who became most finite a Baby
who would one day be executed
for my crimes.
Praise Him in the heavens.
Praise Him in the stable.
Praise Him in my heart.
Who sent the Son of God into the world? God the Father sent him, and he did it out of love for us.
If you want to learn more about my book, or order a signed copy, now is a great time to get it in preparation for Advent: Open Before Christmas